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Context of 'October 1995: Right-Wingers Call for Israeli Prime Minister Rabin’s Death, Compare Israeli Government to Nazis'

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The famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat, with Clinton symbolically bringing the two together.The famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat, with Clinton symbolically bringing the two together. [Source: Reuters]President Bill Clinton presides over the historic signing of the Oslo Accords, an overarching peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has agreed to give up large swaths of Palestinian territory Israel has occupied since 1967 in return for a Palestinian commitment to peace. Rabin is loathe to actually shake hands with his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Arafat, in part because he knows the gesture would inflame extremists on both sides of the issue. But Clinton insists, and the two sign the accords and, symbolically embraced by Clinton, indeed shake hands. Clinton will later write, “All the world was cheering [the handshake], except the diehard protesters in the Middle East who were inciting violence, and demonstrators in front of the White House claiming we were endangering Israel’s security.” Those demonstrators include Christian fundamentalists, neoconservative ideologues, and Orthodox Jews. “Every grain of sand between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jews,” says US evangelist and Moral Majority co-founder Ed McAteer. “This includes the West Bank and Gaza.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 121-122]

Entity Tags: Ed McAteer, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset.Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset. [Source: Neuhaus Nadav / Corbis Sygma]During the first Knesset debate on the Oslo peace accords (see September 13, 1993), Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists, compares the accords to British attempts to appease Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler before World War II. Referring to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, he shouts at Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, “You are worse than Chamberlain.” Netanyahu is so aggressive in part because he has the public and private support of influential US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists. “I was ambassador [to the US] for four years of the peace process, and the Christian fundamentalists were vehemently opposed to the peace process,” Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich will recall (see July 1993). “They believed that the land belonged to Israel as a matter of divine right. So they immediately became part of a campaign by the Israeli right to undermine the peace process.” Netanyahu’s outburst on the floor of the Knesset is a deliberate part of this strategy. [Knesset Homepage, 2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 136]

Entity Tags: Itamar Rabinovich, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat goes to Gaza as outlined by the Oslo peace agreement (see September 13, 1993). The next day, as many as 100,000 right-wing protesters vent their spleen at Arafat, the peace process, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, chanting, “Rabin is a homo!” and “Rabin is the son of a whore!” Near a huge banner reading “Death to Arafat,” Israeli Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attacks the “blindness” of the Rabin administration for precipitating “the destruction of the Jewish state.” Netanyahu tells the crowd: “Arafat, who is personally responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews and non-Jews, this war criminal, is being hoisted aloft by the government of Israel.… What Arafat truly wants is not an Arab state beside Israel, but an Arab state in place of Israel.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 137]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Palestinian Liberation Organization

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Most Israeli lawmakers and politicians distance themselves from the Jewish extremists calling for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin over the Oslo peace accords (see September 13, 1993). However, Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu actively curries their favor (see July 1-2, 1994). On the floor of the Knesset, he often attacks Rabin (see September 21, 1993) for giving away “parts of our homeland.” After one particularly fiery speech, thousands of right-wing protesters gather in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, where they put of posters of Rabin wearing a Nazi SS uniform, display banners calling Rabin “Arafat’s Dog,” and chant, “Death to Rabin! Nazis! Judenrat!”—a particularly odious epithet referring to the “Jewish councils” that were forced by the Nazis to expedite the transfer of Jews to concentration camps. Housing Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is horrified by the frenzy of the mob, and tells Netanyahu, who is orchestrating the demonstration, “You’d better restrain your people. Otherwise it will end in murder. They tried to kill me just now.… Your people are mad. If someone is murdered, the blood will be on your hands.… The settlers have gone crazy, and someone will be murdered here, if not today, then in another week or another month!” Netanyahu ignores the warning, and, basking in the chants of “Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!,” takes the podium, where he is optimistically introduced as the next prime minister of Israel. [Unger, 2007, pp. 139-140]

Entity Tags: Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Benjamin Netanyahu

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The sheet with the lyrics to the ‘Song of Peace,’ stained with Rabin’s blood.The sheet with the lyrics to the ‘Song of Peace,’ stained with Rabin’s blood. [Source: Knesset]Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated at a rally in Tel Aviv. Over 100,000 people have gathered in Kings of Israel Square to support Rabin and the Oslo peace process (see September 13, 1993 and October 6, 1995). The rally is designed to be light-hearted, in contrast with the angry, combative rallies staged by radical conservatives to oppose the peace agreements (see October 1995). Rabin gives a short radio interview before leaving the stage at the rally, and tells listeners, “People have their personal security but they do not have doubts that the path of peace should be pursued.” Rabin’s wife Leah is asked if her husband is wearing a bulletproof vest. “Have you gone crazy?” she replies. “What are we, in Africa?… I don’t understand the ideas you journalists have.” Meanwhile, law student Yigal Amir (see September 13, 1993 and October 6, 1995) is sitting on a concrete flower planter in the parking lot. A guard notices Amir and whispers into his microphone, “For God’s sake. What’s that dark guy doing down there? Is he one of us?” When Rabin walks by Amir to go to his car, Amir pulls out a gun and fires three shots. Two hollow-point bullets strike Rabin in the chest, severing major arteries and destroying his spinal cord. The third strikes Rabin’s bodyguard in the arm. “It’s nothing!” Amir shouts. “It’s just a joke! Blanks, blanks!” Police seize Amir; the wounded bodyguard rushes Rabin to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead 90 minutes later. When the police inform Amir that Rabin has died, he tells them, “Do your work. I’ve done mine.” Turning to an officer, he adds, “Get some wine and cakes. Let’s have a toast.” Someone later goes through Rabin’s pockets and finds a bloodied piece of paper with the lyrics to a popular tune, “The Song of Peace,” copied on it. Rabin had joined in singing the song at the rally. Author Craig Unger later writes that aside from the personal tragedy of the assassination, “In part because of his legacy as a great Israeli military commander, no one in Israel was, or ever could be, a more forceful figure than Rabin in promoting the peace process. As a result, his murder was a devastating blow to the Oslo principle, the principle of land for peace.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 141-143; Knesset Homepage, 2008]

Entity Tags: Craig Unger, Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin, Leah Rabin

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Right-wing political leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu becomes Israel’s new prime minister. When the campaign to replace assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (see November 4, 1995) began in early 1996, even Netanyahu’s fellow Likud leaders did not believe he had a chance of being elected. At at least one rally after Rabin’s death, crowds chanted “Bibi’s a murderer!” accusing Netanyahu of inciting the violence that led to Rabin’s death (see October 1995 and November 4, 1995 and After). Netanyahu’s opponent, Shimon Peres, cast himself as Rabin’s successor, and the Clinton administration tacitly endorsed Peres as the best hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But Netanyahu is a polished orator with a strong following among the hardline conservatives and religious fundamentalists both in Israel and the US. He also knows how to appeal to America’s more secular, cosmopolitan Jewish community. He hired Arthur Finkelstein, a prominent Republican political consultant, to run a campaign smearing Peres as a weak, ineffective leader who will betray Israel to the Arabs. Peres was befuddled by Netanyahu’s slick, US-style attack campaign and his ability to secure financial and other support among American Christian fundamentalists. The election hung in the balance when a timely spate of Hamas bombings in February and March, and a Netanyahu ad campaign blaming the attack on Peres’s supposed weakness, gave Netanyahu enough voter support for him to eke out a razor-thin margin of victory. US envoy Dennis Ross, one of the Clinton officials involved in the Oslo peace talks, later recalls that he and his colleagues were horrified at Netanyahu’s victory. “Our collective relief became a collective dread,” he will later write. [Unger, 2007, pp. 143-144]

Entity Tags: Yitzhak Rabin, Arthur Finkelstein, Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton administration, Dennis Ross, Hamas, Shimon Peres

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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